RD227 - Virginia Early Childhood Foundation Annual Report 2012 and Financial Statements
Why is school readiness so important?
A child’s experiences during the earliest years have the potential to impact the trajectory of his or her entire life. Children born into supportive families who have access to health care and responsive caregivers are better prepared for kindergarten. Children who are better prepared for kindergarten are able to make the most of school once they arrive and remain motivated to be successful throughout their lives. School readiness produces economic and social benefits including a productive workforce for Virginia. As Virginians, we all want our state to remain prosperous, vibrant and fiscally sound. As the state’s non-partisan public-private partner, VECF takes seriously our responsibility to drive efficiencies, innovation, and quality as we advance school readiness. (Want to know more? See Early Childhood Development and Returns on Investment* http://www.smartbeginnings.org/Portals/5/PDFs/VECF_ECD_ROI.pdf)
What is VECF’s charge?
Virginia’s Appropriation Act charges the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, through a contract with the Department of Social Services, to support communities across the state as they develop proactive systems to promote school readiness for all children in Virginia, and to leverage one local or private dollar for every dollar of the state appropriation.
Is VECF successful in meeting this charge?
VECF has invested in 29 Smart Beginnings initiatives, encompassing nearly 100 counties/cities and 90% of the state’s population. With funding and technical assistance through VECF, Smart Beginnings communities methodically build their core capacities to effectively address school readiness. An important indicator of Smart Beginnings’ success is the level of diverse funding and support harnessed in local communities. In FY12, with general administration costs at VECF under 7% of total expenses, Smart Beginnings surpassed the suggested leverage ratio, achieving a 4.4:1 ratio of leveraged funds. In FY12, more than $10 million—$8.8 million in private and local dollars within communities plus an additional $1.3 million in public and private investment in VECF for local school readiness efforts—were attracted by the $1.5 million appropriation from state general funds.
How does VECF bring added value to the Commonwealth?
In addition to convening and supporting the Smart Beginnings initiative statewide, VECF provides substantive leadership and drives innovation:
• In partnership with the state, VECF co-administers the Virginia Star Quality Initiative, which levels the playing field for all types of early learning providers (including private, faith-based providers, and schools) and partners with parents to promote quality early learning options.
• VECF is the private sector leader of Virginia’s Plan for Smart Beginnings, the state’s strategic compass for advancing school readiness.
• Along with the Secretary of Education, VECF co-chairs the Early Childhood Advisory Council, which works across sectors and agencies to build a practical and accountable early childhood system in the Commonwealth.
• At the request of the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, VECF has convened experts to identify an early childhood “data dashboard,” a key set of common indicators to guide public and private partners in their collective focus on achieving school readiness and third grade reading proficiency.
• VECF is working with national experts and local stakeholders to identify comprehensive measures of kindergarten readiness, and is focused on integrating this process into existing assessment systems at minimal cost. VECF, working both with community and state level partners, promotes efficiencies by discerning most strategic use and integration of existing resources, while assuring that funding is directed toward strategies with a strong evidence base to deliver positive outcomes for communities.
Has Smart Beginnings made a difference for children, schools, and communities?
A growing number of children are arriving at kindergarten healthy and ready to learn, on a path to third grade reading proficiency and school, workforce, and life success. In Smart Beginnings communities, increases in school readiness are demonstrated by:
• improved kindergarten literacy scores
• reduced rates of need for reading intervention services (resulting in lowered costs for intervention)
• reduced rates of children repeating kindergarten (resulting in lowered costs for retention)
The Readiness in Virginia chart (page 8) and community snapshots (pages 11-24) provide specific details on community successes with improved school readiness.
Over time, as coalition efforts mature and we can follow the trajectory of children within communities over years, we are able to track and document success using metrics such as improved third grade SOL scores. Even as we work to drive improvements in these key indicators, VECF is leading efforts to gain access to more comprehensive and informative measures, which will sharpen interventions and investments.